×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Dead and the Living

A young German woman learns the past is not as black-and-white as she thought.

With:
With: Anna Fischer, August Zirner, Hanns Schussnig, Daniela Sea, Itay Tiran, Winfried Glatzeder. (German, English dialogue)

A young German woman learns the past is not as black-and-white as she thought in “The Dead and the Living,” another offshoot from the I-don’t-know-what-my-family-did-during-the-war tradition. Less eye-catching than Barbara Albert’s previous work, this is an efficient if dramatically monotonous tale of a twentysomething’s journey into her family’s past. Nevertheless, the pic explores Germany’s guilt-ridden relationship with its own history with an engaging directness and simplicity that seems calculated to enlighten younger auds. “Dead” will live on in tube and fest slots, but also has real educational value.

The Dead and the Living

Twenty-five-year-old Austro-Rumanian Sita (Anna Fischer, who looks younger) is a TV production assistant and student. After attending the 95th birthday party of her grandfather (Hanns Schussnig), she finds a torn-up photo of him in SS uniform, and is dismissively told by her father (August Zirner) that the old man only went to a “training camp” during the war. However, further inquiries show there was no such camp.

After starting a relationship with Israeli Jocquin (Itay Tiran) — the script not always subtly picks up the available connections between past and present — Sita starts a journey that will take her to Vienna and Warsaw, where she befriends environmental activist Silver (Daniela Sea). Continuing her research despite the protestations of her father, Sita ends up in Auschwitz, where she learns her grandfather was in fact an SS lieutenant colonel.

Dramatically, the pic is pretty thin. Sita’s on/off relationship with Jocquin is driven by ideas rather than drama, and there’s only so much mileage to be had from watching someone anxiously visiting research centers. The film’s subsequent developments also make it that much harder to believe that such a bright, inquisitive person as Sita would have taken so long to find the truth.

The script strains too obviously for significance, as when the small holes in Sita’s ventricles are meant to suggest she literally has a broken heart. That said, Albert’s script at least complicates the simple “Nazis bad/everyone else good” dichotomy by supplying enough historical context: This family, like the helmer’s own, has Transylvanian roots, and historical forces meant that the Transylvanian Saxons were both perpetrators and victims during the war. All this is explored via a thought-provoking monologue movingly played by Schussnig.

Perfs are strong throughout, with Fischer doing good work as a fundamentally fragile young woman out of her depth. Often-handheld lensing and an edgy soundtrack combine to suggest the protag’s restless energy.

The Dead and the Living

Austria

Production: A Coop99 Filmproduktion, Komplizenfilm production. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Bruno Wagner, Barbara Albert. Co-producers, Alex Stern, Maren Ade, Jonas Dornbach, Janine Jackowski. Directed, written by Barbara Albert.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Bogumil Godfrejow; editor, Monika Willi; music, Lorenz Dangel; production designer, Enid Loeser; costume designer, Veronika Albert; sound (Dolby Digital), Dietmar Zuson, Tobias Fleig; assistant director, Valentin Hitz, Melani Murkovic; casting, Lisa Olah. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (competing), Sept. 23, 2012. Running time: 110 MIN.

Cast: With: Anna Fischer, August Zirner, Hanns Schussnig, Daniela Sea, Itay Tiran, Winfried Glatzeder. (German, English dialogue)

More Scene

  • Katie HolmesAT&T Presents: Untold Stories Luncheon

    Katie Holmes, Kal Penn Help Decide Winner of $1 Million Filmmaker Grant

    Tribeca Film Festival and AT&T gave one young filmmaker a million and one reasons to rejoice at the “Untold Stories” third annual competition. After a nerve-wracking 10-minute long pitch in front of over 850,000 live stream audience members and a panel consisting of celebrities and industry leaders, filmmaker Kate Tsang was awarded $1 million Monday [...]

  • Laurie Metcalf, John Lithgow'Hillary and Clinton'

    Why John Lithgow Worried About Starring in Broadway's 'Hillary and Clinton'

    When Lucas Hnath first conceived of “Hillary and Clinton” in 2008, he was writing for and about a very different America. Now, a total reimagining of the show has made its way to Broadway with Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in the titular roles. At the opening on Thursday night, the cast and creatives talked [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Took 12 Years to Get to Broadway, but It's More Relevant Than Ever

    When “Hadestown” was first staged as a tiny, DIY theater project in Vermont, those involved could never have predicted that it was the start of a 12-year journey to Broadway — or how painfully relevant it would be when it arrived. At Wednesday night’s opening at the Walter Kerr Theatre, the cast and creatives discussed [...]

  • Mick Jagger

    Mick Jagger Makes First Post-Surgery Appearance at Rolling Stones Ballet Premiere

    Rock legend Mick Jagger made his first public appearance post-heart surgery on Thursday night to catch a glimpse of the world premiere of the Rolling Stones ballet “Porte Rouge.” “I hope you are going to enjoy this wonderful new ballet, and, of course, the music,” the frontman declared in a pre-recorded message to the audience [...]

  • Adam Driver appears at the curtain

    Adam Driver on Starring in 'Burn This' for a Second Time

    The Hudson Theatre’s new production of “Burn This” marks its first Broadway revival since it premiered on the Great White Way in 1987, but Adam Driver is no stranger to the work. He starred as Pale in a Juilliard production of the Lanford Wilson drama when he was still a student — and only now, [...]

  • PMC Event Rome

    Film, Fashion, Formula E Mix at Rome E-Prix Bash

    Film, fashion and Formula E auto-racing fused during a dinner and celebration of the Rome E-Prix on Thursday at the Palazzo Dama by the Piazza del Popolo in the heart of the Eternal City.  Guests mingled and sipped cocktails as hors d’oeuvres were passed around in a former home of the Italian nobility with conversation [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content